Learning To Dive in Fiji

This post was written by Matt Kepnes. All photos used were taken by me.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to scuba dive. When I started traveling, I promised myself I’d learn to dive. It had always been a life long desire of mine- to explore the world under the sea. All the beautiful pictures I saw of life underwater, the stories from other travelers, the bonds they seemed to share after a dive trip- all of it made me excited to learn to dive. But then trips to Australia passed. Visits to islands in Thailand turned into snorkeling trips. I always found an excuse to not to dive. I didn’t have the time, the money, I had other things to do, or I didn’t have anyone to go with. There was always an excuse!

And why? Continue reading “Learning To Dive in Fiji”

Thoughts on Fiji: 2010 Edition

Fijian boy from the island of Waya
Fijian boy from the island of Waya
Here are a collection of random thoughts about my current trip to Fiji:

– The tourism industry, especially the budget tourism industry, is expanding. This time around I noticed that Base Backpackers, the big hostel chain from New Zealand, is now in Fiji. The FeeJeeExperience, which is owned by the same company which does the KiwiExperience and the OzExperience. There are skydiving and other extreme sports options now available in Fiji as well. The percentage of 20-something Europeans I met in the Yasawas this time was much larger than my 2007 trip. They even have a Hard Rock Cafe at the harbor in Nadi. Everything seems much more mature from a business perspective.

– There are very few Americans here. I’ve met tons of Europeans but hardly any Americans. Almost all the Europeans are on a similar path where they either were just at Australia/New Zealand or are going there next. In fact, almost all the 20-somethings seem to be taking the same general trip. Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and LA. I still recommend the Yasawas as a destination, especially if you’ve never been there before, but when I return to Fiji next time, I’m going to a different part of the country.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Fiji: 2010 Edition”

Back in the Saddle Again: Fiji Edition

The life of a travel blogger isn't all fun and games...oh, wait, yes it is
The life of a travel blogger isn't all fun and games...oh, wait, yes it is
As I write this, I am laying on a hammock with my laptop on my chest about 10m (30ft) from the shore of the Pacific Ocean on the island of Naviti in Fiji. While I’m enjoying the weather here much more than the freezing temperatures I left behind in Wisconsin, the purpose of this post is not to rub it in to those back home (although I desperately do want to do that too).

Prior to departing Los Angeles for Fiji last Sunday (and completely deleting January 11 from my life as I crossed the International Date line) I’d had been in the United States for the previous five month. While I had spent the majority of that time traveling, it wasn’t traveling in the same sense as I am traveling now or I had been traveling the previous 2.5 years. The only thing I had to deal with traveling in the US were gas prices and motel rooms. I didn’t have issues of language, culture or extreme distances to deal with. I was on the road, but it was fundamentally different.
Continue reading “Back in the Saddle Again: Fiji Edition”

Episode 4 – I Dream of Fiji

I shot a lot of video when I was in the Pacific. This is the first of what will be occasional episodes where I share some of the footage I took. This was taken on Waya Lailai island in the Yawasawa Islands in Fiji.


I finally got the chance to visit a McDonald’s in Fiji. I had to look closely, but what I noticed was definitely a reflection of what makes up modern Fiji.

The first thing to notice was that there were six different value meals available. Big Mac, double cheeseburger, chicken sandwich, fish sandwich, chicken nuggets, and regular old pieces of chicken. Why is this worth mentioning? Because 2/3 of the menu wasn’t beef and 1/2 of the menu was chicken.

If you looked at the full menu, every item that had beef in it had a small (beef) label next to the item. Why the issue with beef? If you spend any time in Fiji you’d see it right away.

About half of the population in Fiji are Indian, and hence, you got a lot of Hindus.

The population distribution in Fiji isn’t just reflected in the menu at McDonald’s. It has in one way or another, been responsible for much of the political turmoil which Fiji has experienced in the last fifteen years, how its political and economic structure is based, and of course its history.

For starters look at a map of the pacific. Most of the island countries would be impossible to find if their names were printed on the map. Fiji, however, is easy to see. It is by far the largest country in the region, which means it has the potential for the greatest amount of agriculture.

Fiji is also unique in that it was asked to be colonized by the British. (That isn’t an imperial fable to make the British look good either. They asked because they saw it as a way to end conflict on the islands and they knew they’d be colonized by someone, so they picked British.) The British used Fiji to grow sugar cane. They also needed workers for the sugar cane fields.

The largest British colony at that time was India, so India became the source of most of the laborers for the sugar cane fields in India. (The same thing happened in Guyana in South America. Guyana remains the only county in the Western Hemisphere where the largest religion is Hindu.) Indian workers came to Fiji to earn money never left.

Fast forward to independence in the 1960s. Most of the important events which have occured since independence have had something to do with the Indian population in some way or another.

Land ownership in Fiji is heavily tilted to favor native Fijians. There are also set aside positions in the parliament for ethnic groups. Because of the landownership rules, Indians end up owning many of the stores and businesses in Fiji, similar to how Jews and Chinese often wound up business owners in places where they lived.

In 1988, there was a coup in Fiji which was due largely to increasing role of Indians in Fiji in the government. Since then there have been several other coups, the most recent being in December 2006.

The end result of all the instability is that enough Indians have left Fiji to give native Fijians a majority again.

So….there is a heck of a lot behind having chicken on the menu.

Suva Monday

My visa application at the Kiribati embassy went smoothly. I got it done in under one hour. Believe it not, it was the first visa I’ve applied for. (I decided to not apply to China in Samoa. I’m going to apply when I’m closer to China and know my itinerary better.)

I visited the University of the South Pacific where, according to my guidebook, is the best bookstore in the South Pacific. Sadly, that isn’t saying much. I got a book on cargo cults and the James Mitchner Novel “Tales of the South Pacific”.

I’m going to upload a few more photos while I have the bandwidth, then its a three hour drive back to Nadi tonight. Tomorrow morning I’m off to New Caledonia and Francophone land.

Back to Fiji II

I’m writing in Suva, Fiji. I got in at 6:30am and a day added with my 5th crossing of the dateline on my trip. I spent the morning driving to Suva and am writing at what is, by far, the nicest internet cafe I’ve encountered on my trip.

Tomorrow moring I’ll get to the Kiribati embassy first thing to get my visa processed. I’ll also try and hit up the bookstore at the University of the South Pacific before driving back to Nadi.

The next morning (Tuesday) I have an early flight to New Caledonia. I’m really excited to get to Vanuatu. I think Tanna Island will be one of the highlights of my trip so far.

I should note that I haven’t seen a single soldier since arriving in Suva. I can see no obvious external evidence of the coup….yet.

And the winner is…..Impetigo!

So, after much review, I think what I have is called Impetigo. Here is how it’s described by the Mayo Clinic website:

Impetigo starts as a red sore that quickly ruptures, oozes for a few days and then forms a yellowish-brown crust that looks like honey or brown sugar. The disease is highly contagious, and scratching or touching the sores is likely to spread the infection to other parts of the body as well as to other people.

Impetigo is seldom serious, and minor infections may clear on their own in two to three weeks.

It’s mostly found in children. I think the open sores on my body and all the diving and the lack of descent shower facilities and the sores not letting me be able to shower properly probably were all factors in me getting a bad case.

I’ve begun uploading some Fiji photos. Here is one of me underwater. Note how extreme my haircut was. The barber pretty much made me bald. I have enough stubble on my head now that you can at least tell I have hair.

I also accidentally took some video while diving in Fiji. I thought the camera was in photo mode, but it was in video mode, so some of it is pretty jerky because I didn’t know I was filming.

Fiji Winding Down

I’m at the airport in Nadi waiting for my 1:30am flight back across the International Date Line to Apia, Samoa. I figure I’ll upate the old web site.

I have a lot to say, but I’ll save it for when I can post from my laptop, where I’ve been writing all week. I’m leving Fiji with a very very different view than I had one week ago. I didn’t know what to think before I came here. I knew they had a military coup recently, but not much more.

I leave having met tons of people this week, made lots of friends, sores all over my body, tired and in a pretty good mood. I’m going to sleep in while in Samoa (I get to redo Saturday, so why not), check with the Tokelau Office to see when the boat leaves, and try to get good internet. What I find out about the Tokelau boat will determine where I go from there.

I’m also woking on some big picture posts about my travels, but I’m not going to post anything till I get more places under my belt. I’m not sure I have a big enough sample size yet to comment.

I met THREE people from the Twin Cities in Fiji and two more from Iowa. Those were the only Americans I met on the islands (a big group from the University of Georgia was on the boat). I met people from England, Scotand, Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Austria, Switerland, Germay, Finland, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Netherlands, and I’m probably forgetting a few.

If I’m luckly, I’ll have my Fiji photos up tomorrow sometime and know what I’ll be doing the next few weeks.